WINSLOW — The Town Council took the first of two necessary votes on this year’s town budget, which is more than $500,000 more than last year’s, approving it unanimously, 7-0.
To cover the increase in the budget, the town is taking nearly $1.2 million from its surplus account to maintain the tax rate, which is $15.50 per $1,000 valuation. The town has roughly $4.6 million in its surplus account, according to Town Manager Michael Heavener.
The second reading and vote on the budget is scheduled for May 12.
A public hearing was held before the vote was taken, but none of the roughly dozen residents present commented on the proposed annual budget, which is $21,284,338.
The nearly $1.2 million is one of the highest totals the town has taken out of its surplus, according to District Four councilman Raymond Caron.
“I’d be more comfortable if it was closer to $800,000 and we looked at another $400,000 in cuts,” Caron said. “But I can accept this and take it into chance. Next year it may bite us.”
Councilman Kenneth Fletcher said the town is capable of taking less than the proposed amount from the surplus fund if departments are able to keep an eye on spending.
“We will plan on using this amount, but if we can continue to manage our affairs, we will end up not using anywhere near as much of that reserve fund balance — I hope,” Fletcher said.
Municipal expenditures increased by nearly $150,000, due mostly to increased expenses, Heavener said on Monday. Education expenses increased by nearly $370,000.
More than $714,000 is proposed to be transferred to the town’s capital improvement account, nearly $110,000 more than last year’s budget. The funds are for projects such as a new roof for the fire department, which is estimated at $75,000, according to Heavener, and improvements to the library, which include fixing drainage issues.
Other uses of those funds include $200,000 set aside for road and street maintenance, which is less than half the town would hope to put aside for road work, according to Heavener.
“We used to put $425,000 aside for road work,” Heavener said.
Some of the shortfall in Winslow’s municipal budget is a result of the continuing decrease in state revenue sharing, with nearly $580,000 in state funding being cut since 2009, according to Heavener.
Some other increases proposed in the budget include an additional $25,000 for the fire department, which is looking into purchasing new call-out gear, and sewer costs, which are up more than $20,000.
“Those are just the cause of yearly increases in cost,” Heavener said.